Varnamala : Contemporary Oriya Poetry

 
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BHARAT MAJHI
 

THAT OLD MAN
ON THE VERANDA OF JUNAGARH BLOCK OFFICE


Does he say something  
gesturing his hands, beating his chest ?  

A few yards away  
is a gathering in the college field;  
a mike, a pandal and the shoutings:  
you grabbed the Parliament, the Assembly;  
now you leave us the local bodies.  

That old man still sits  
on the veranda of Junagarh Block office.  
Look, how eloquently does he speak !  
Does he say, the Prime Minister of Fiji  
with the Indian origin  
is in the clutches of the rebels,  
both the Koreas will merge within a year,  
hasn't the exchange rate of dollar  
gone down in this whole decade ?  

Does he say, in our country  
the number of political parties,  
big and small, is around four hundred;  
thirty of them form the government  
but the ministry comprises twenty four ?  

Does he say, in the women's page of the daily  
is the news of the Queen Victoria's lover,  
the socialist leader  
is away in the U.S. for medical treatment,  
his expenses totally borne by the government;  
there is pain in his chest.  

That old man still sits  
on the veranda of Junagarh Block office.  
I think, I have seen him somewhere,  
or is it his photo that I have seen ?  
Did the environmentalists take his snap  
on the Narmada Valley ?  
Did a photo of his, with an axe  
in his hand, appear in the newspaper  
when he protested against  
the proposed test-firing centre at Chandipur ?  
Did he join the opposition party's rally  
against the price-rise of the seeds ?  

Did he sit on the left side of the bier  
of his young son who lost his life  
in protest against prawn culture  
in the lake Chilika ?  
Did he sit, his hand pressed against his chin,  
in the national dailies  
in one report of proselytization ?  

A few yards away  
the pandal is agog with speech  
whereas the old man on the veranda  
goes on shouting nonchalantly.  
On his face flashes the face  
of an old man who has gone back  
dejected for the thirteenth time  
without getting his old-age pension,  
the face of that poor farmer  
who is busy in arranging money  
to bribe the officials to get his quota of  
fertilizer and seeds,  
the face of a young AIDs patient  
who had gone to Surat  
in search of a job,  
the face of the one  
rendered homeless in the supercyclone  
who now waits for a yard of polythene,  
and the face of that labourer  
who died of an accident in the Oswal factory  
but whose name is not there in the attendance register.  

That old man still sits  
on the veranda of Junagarh Block office  
in Kalahandi.  

Bharat,  
will your hands ever reach out to him?  
  

Translation :
Rabindra K Swain   

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